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2011 Outbreak of Rare E. Coli Strain was Costly for Europe

The World Health Organization (WHO) has totaled up some economic costs of the 2011 outbreak of the rare and deadly E. coli O104:H4 centered on Northern Europe. Farmers and industries lost $1.3 billion, and emergency aid provided to 22 European states cost another $236 million, according to WHO. The novel E. coli strain was the… Continue Reading

EU Tallies Human & Economic Damages From O104 Outbreak

Bureaucrats in Brussels have tallied up the damage last year’s E. coli O104:H4 outbreak did to the European fruit and vegetable business and threatened to use European Union law to make sure it does not happen again. Yet, the newly released “Commission Staff Working Document” into “lessons learned” about the 2011 outbreak probably won’t shake… Continue Reading

Spanish Farmers Paid a Price for Europe’s E. coli O104 Outbreak

The Murcia region in southeastern Spain, where the Segura River is found, is known as Europe’s orchid because of its abundant production of fruits, vegetables and flowers. But Murcia is coming off a down year because of a variety of factors, not the least of which was the virulent E. coli outbreak last spring centered… Continue Reading

Another Clue to E. Coli O104:H4?

Scientists in Oslo say sequencing of a particular virulent strain of E. coli O103:H25, which caused an outbreak in Norway in 2006, revealed a resemblance to the 2011 German outbreak strain of E. coli O104:H4, and suggests the two strains are related. Writing in the online journal PLoS ONE, the researchers with the Department of… Continue Reading

An Outbreak Like Germany’s Could Happen Here

I am interested in how major foodborne outbreaks and their investigations are interpreted and analyzed: to prevent future outbreaks, minimize the harm from outbreaks that occur, and frame the debates on regulating food safety on farms. When I was asked by a small organic farmer in California what the implications were of the 2011 O104:H4… Continue Reading

Clues to Deadly EU ‘Sproutbreak’ in New Genome Study

In one of the first uses of genome sequencing to trace the path of a foodborne illness outbreak, a team led by scientists from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Broad Institute looked at the E. coli O104:H4 epidemic that hit Europe last year. Their study was published this week in Proceedings of… Continue Reading

Top Food Safety Stories of 2011: No. 1

The epidemic of E. coli O104:H4 centered in Northern Germany was 2011’s most important food safety story. The top story of the year involved a rare serotype of dangerous bacteria that in May and June killed at least 50 and sickened more than 4,000, including 852 who developed kidney-damaging hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). In terms… Continue Reading

Profile of Germany’s Catastrophic ‘Sproutbreak’

As health authorities raced to find the source of the unprecedented E. coli epidemic sweeping through Germany this past spring, epidemiology was faulted when the first case-control study erroneously pointed to cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce as possible suspects. But it was microbiology, not epidemiology, which implicated the wrong vegetable. After lab tests found pathogenic E…. Continue Reading